Reserving Judgement On Reserved Train Seats

Just saw a post shared on Facebook that originated from a Facebook user, ‘Ken Lee’, who alleges that a younger person snatched a seat that his 62-year-old father wanted to take on a Joo Koon-bound train. And there’s a picture of a slim-built young man in a blue long-sleeved top apparently asleep in the reserved seat, clutching a backpack. And sure enough, other Facebook users were quick to pass judgement on this person in the photo, with choice words like “asshole”, “disabled”, “stupid”, etc.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FKenLee999%2Fposts%2F10157308045134578&width=500

Only 1 person tried to be the voice of reason and ask:

“Where is the video of him confronting ur dad? Would like to see and judge. Base on this picture cannot judge what u said is true. U mentioned 62 yo is nt old either and those seats are reserved for disabled, pregnant, old people with walking stick and Mother carrying babies. Yr dad obviously doesn’t fit those bills. Again, I don’t understand why people (incl the man and yr dad) cannot even stand for a 30mins ride in a aircon train? If cannot tahan, better stay at home.”

It’s easy to get upset when we read such stories of younger people apparently snatching seats from their elders. It reeks of disrespect. Yet there has been no fact-checking and no corroboration of accounts. Is there a credible witness who can confirm that such a thing happened? Or better still, was there a video clip of the incident?

And this account was not even posted by the older Mr Lee, who was supposedly the victim of a snatch-and-snooze on the MRT train. It was posted by his son, who was not even at the scene.

So before we get upset and start a witch-hunt for this guy, it’s better to just sit back and chill first.

What do you imagine a 62-year-old man looks like? Is he frail? Or is he even fitter than men half his age? Let’s not be so quick to judge a person we’ve not even met. As for the guy in the photo? Well, it’d be good to hear his side of the story (if he was not actually asleep at that time).

And it appears that even though the 62-year-old Mr Lee did not sustain any injuries after the young man allegedly ‘bumped him out of the way’, Mr Lee decided to take a picture of the man in the reserved seat. For what purpose? What did seniors do in the past before there were handphones? Did they get someone to draw a portrait of the offender and stick those ‘posters’ all over the kampongs? (Ok, it’s a joke. But you get the idea, ya? ;))

Having reserved seats on the trains does not mean seniors are entitled to seats all of the time. We do each make a judgement call (however arbitrary) according to the circumstances. For instance, if a healthy-looking senior is seated on a reserved seat in a packed train, reading a newspaper, and a heavily pregnant woman carrying multiple bags boards the train and walks toward the senior, should the latter give up the seat to the pregnant lady? Who needs the seat more? If you’re seated next to the senior, would you ask him to give up his seat? And if the pregnant lady gets the seat, and a young man hobbles onto the train with the aid of crutches (looking like he recently got into an accident), should the pregnant woman stand up and offer the injured fella the seat then?

I guess we can only say our society is a gracious one the day that seniors and pregnant women and mobility-challenged folks enter train cabins and immediately, people who were actually seated all rise and offer their seats to these folks who need them more. And we can take off those silly “Reserved Seating” stickers.

Instead of promoting graciousness, we’re breeding a certain sense of entitlement. There are seniors who do not join the queue at the MRT platforms, and instead waltz their way into the cabins when the train doors open. Should the young queue-abiding commuters take pictures of the seniors and post them on social media? Of course not. We just live and let live.

Also, some parents believe (erroneously or not) that young children deserve to take those reserved seats. I’ve seen kids in the reserved seats, with parents beside them, and I wonder why they deserve those seats? Some are certainly too young to have to pay the train fare so they are riding for free, and most of them are definitely not disabled. So why do parents not seat young children on laps, and leave the reserved seats for other commuters? What should we do upon witnessing such a sight? Take a photo and post it on Facebook?

*sigh*

Can Singaporeans Truly Live ‘Regardless Of Race’?

Racism in Singapore

Screengrab from Toggle.Sg

I missed the Channel NewsAsia documentary ‘Regardless Of Race’ when it aired on TV, so I watched it on Toggle.sg instead. Hosted by Janil Puthucheary, Chairperson of Onepeople.sg, the film sought to tease out Singaporeans’ thoughts on our race relations. But I guess a TV programme will have its (obvious) limitations – people are unlikely to speak their minds if they know that what they say will go out to the ENTIRE nation. So was this ultimately an exercise in futility or will it spark some kind of meaningful conversation? And why did this air now (so coincidental!), just as we are talking about which race our elected President (and perhaps also, our next PM) should (or can) come from?

*Here’s the URL if you want to watch the programme: http://video.toggle.sg/en/series/regardless-of-race/ep1/439373 (just copy + paste it into your browser)

Is racism alive in Singapore? And more importantly, are YOU racist?

#1: Racism (or Racial Awareness, if you’d like) is definitely alive here in SG

Because of its obvious negative connotations, few of us would want to admit to being ‘racist’. Also, I think people define “racism” differently. If you’ve traveled, studied, or lived overseas in countries which struggle with blatant racism, you might be of the opinion that racism involves people getting (wrongfully) shot by the police, getting harassed by people on the streets (being called “CH*NK!”, “N*GGER”, etc) when you’re just minding your own business, or if you’d steer clear of certain streets or districts inhabited by people of a particular race who are likely to rob you or even worse, kill you.

If you don’t want to admit to being “racist”, would you consider yourself “racially blind” then? Do you treat everyone the same way? Are your best friends all from different races? Do you enjoy being in the company of people of different races? As an employer, would you hire anyone from any race as long as he/she is a good worker?

I’m not sure if there are people who would tell me that there’s just one race here, and that it is the “Singaporean race” and that we are well and truly “one people”. Because it’s quite clear that there are people from many different races living here in Singapore and we are all very different. And because there are many nationalities of people living and working here, it simply adds to the confusion. For instance, you can’t exactly call me racist if I don’t like certain people of the same race as me but who come from a different culture. Ethnically, we are alike, yet we have different food preferences, backgrounds, practices and maybe we won’t even understand each other when speaking what is essentially the “same” language!

The pressures of urban living on what is a very small island-nation can potentially cause conflict to arise along any (real or imagined) fault-line there may be. It could be due to nationality, class, religion, (even) sexual orientation, and of course, race. That being said, I don’t think we’ll have a repeat of the racial tensions in the 1960s. Singaporeans are a pragmatic lot. I think demonstrations and protests are a thing of the past. We simply don’t have the time, money or energy to waste. And we most certainly want to avoid jail. #kiasi

#2: Don’t blame it all on RACE

I do think that the CNA programme might have inadvertently oversimplified things. Asking people how they’d react if they notice a neighbor being mistreated? And then following up with another question about what if the neighbors are of a different race?

Well, first of all, I’d pat those people on the back for being observant (or kaypoh, whichever it is) and noticing that a neighbor is being mistreated. Often, I’m holed up in my bedroom blogging, reading or watching a Korean drama so I wouldn’t know if a neighbor was being beaten up or worse, murdered. Thankfully, it’s peaceful in my neighborhood. Perhaps my neighbors are also watching Korean dramas.

Secondly, whether I choose to react or not will depend on more factors than one about race. Is a kid being mistreated, in a way that is unreasonable? For instance, a kid being caned won’t raise a brow among neighbors but a kid being slammed against a wall might, and should actually. If an elderly person is being reprimanded (or nagged at, whichever you prefer) for leaving the cooking unattended, or heading out for a walk without notifying someone else in the family first thus worrying everyone, I think it’s possible to look the other way. But an elderly person with a bruised eye, that I’m quite sure was inflicted on purpose? Then a police officer or social worker should be brought in to probe. I find it very hard to believe that people would respond differently if their neighbors are of a different race.

#3: Racism need not be a bad thing

Google the term “racism” and you get this definition: “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.”

People often dwell on the negatives, but neglect the positives. For instance, if I were to ask you to point out the race you would associate with:

(1) Lawyers in Singapore. There’s one particular race which seems to churn out the most lawyers, or the “best” lawyers. People from this race are thought to be the best at speaking, putting forth arguments, etc. Also, they are pretty good moneychangers. You know who I’m talking about?

(2) Making the best sambal? Or the best prata? Or the best Singapore chili crab?

(3) Alternative medicine, e.g. acupuncture?

I do think that Malay housewives are better at cooking than Chinese housewives (I like Malay food stalls more than Chinese cai fan stalls too!). And I’d view a Chinese prata stall with more than a bit of suspicion, and quickly pick the ones manned by Indians. However, I’d only allow a Chinese sinseh to prick me with acupuncture needles, and not a Malay or Indian doctor, and definitely not a Eurasian doctor. I’m judging them only by the color of their skin, and not their qualifications per se. But can you blame me?

I DO think that some races are better at certain things, and I think that’s great! We know who’s good at what (or we assume that what we think is right), and we (perhaps) spend our money wisely. Yes, I’ll happily be called racist for pooh-poohing the efforts of a Chinese man selling prata. But if someone other than a Chinese person is selling me char kway teow, carrot cake or hokkien mee, I’m not buying. #UnlessHeReceivedAMichelinStar #NeverSayNever

~

We won’t reach that utopic state of having eradicated “racism” in Singapore. But we can all put in a bit more effort to avoid alienating people of other races in our schools, offices, neighborhoods, etc. We can work at not making racist jokes and also, omitting unflattering terms from our vocabulary. But thinking that we can become racially blind is simply wishful thinking. As an Indian teacher in JC told my class, there is “veiled racism” in Singapore. It exists all the time, except when you’re being interviewed for national TV…

Before Marriage, Consider Divorce

S.H.E’s Selina Jen announced her divorce via her Facebook page recently and sent shockwaves through the Internet. Like many of her fans, I was very surprised that the man who had solidly stood by her during her accident (and recovery) some years ago would no longer be her husband once the divorce is finalized.

“Till death do us part” does not seem to hold true anymore, as we see more and more high profile celebrity divorce cases. I can name at least 8 local celebrities who have had divorces, with some getting married for the 2nd or even 3rd time! I do wonder if they made any changes to the standard marriage vow ‘template’.

And I think we need to pay some attention to the rise in divorces, and how this might be perceived by couples who are intending to get married. For one, I think that it is important to let your spouse know what the boundaries in the relationship are. For instance, you may have a firm stance against adultery, and your partner needs to know that it is something you will absolutely not tolerate, and therefore he/she might want to avoid getting too close to a colleague of the opposite gender.

~

Did you know that getting a divorce in Singapore is very much like commencing a civil suit against someone? You can sue for divorce on any of these grounds: adultery, unreasonable behavior, desertion, 3 years separation with consent or 4 years separation. To help you navigate the divorce proceedings, you can consider hiring a divorce lawyer.

If you were to do a Google search for the term ‘divorce lawyer singapore‘, you’ll find 529,000 results and more than a few ads. I wonder if facilitating divorces is such a lucrative business in Singapore that law firms are willing to spend ad dollars to attract new clients. 😉 If that’s the case, it appears to me that a divorce might be financially (on top of being emotionally) draining.

Before marriage, I think it is important to consider divorce, and the grounds for which divorce will, and must, happen. This is to ensure both parties know where ‘lines’ must not be crossed. Of course, I know it’s easy to state these things when all’s rosy and well, and when emotions built up over years of marriage come into play, it may not be so easy to walk suavely out of a marriage. But here’s what I think I would communicate with my partner before signing the marriage papers:

  1. When there is adultery, the marriage is over. Relationships are built upon trust, and once a party has broken that faith, there is no turning back. In fact, I think wives who relent when their husbands display remorse and beg for forgiveness are just setting themselves up for failure. EVEN IF the husband manages to stay on the straight and narrow for the rest of his life, and never ever strays again, the cracks are already there, and can never be mended. Even if you forgive the man, you will never forget the betrayal, you will never be able to look at him with 100% adoration, and you will never be able to trust him wholeheartedly anymore. Isn’t that sad?
  2. When there are children in the marriage, the couple must be even more committed to staying in love. This means that they can no longer prize their personal happiness over everything else. To me, having children involves a commitment to them that I will provide a safe and loving environment for them, and that I will nurture them and help them reach their fullest potential. The emotional scars from watching parents feud, and eventually split, cannot (and must not) be part of the deal. If there are children, I’d say divorce is not an option unless your children are fully-grown adults already and your spouse is sleeping around with other people. Another possible reason for getting an immediate divorce even when there are children is domestic violence. No man should ever strike a woman, for any reason, whether he be drunk or angry.
  3. A pre-nuptial agreement can help prevent tussles over assets and also preserve one’s wealth. Often, a woman’s contribution to the family cannot be measured in monetary terms. A man’s contribution to the bread-and-butter necessities can easily be quantified, but how do you put a pricetag on child-raising, on doing household chores, and other activities that seemingly do not have “economic value”? It’s best to have these issues sorted out right at the start, so both parties are clear about who gets what in the event of a split, and costly legal battles can be avoided.

Some of you might disagree with my view about considering divorce before getting married. However, I think it is way easier to talk about certain issues (such as division of assets) when you’re still in love and not trying to gouge each other’s eyes out, and I believe the division would be a lot more… fair. Also, many relationships break down because of a lack of adequate communication. SO, go ahead and tell your partner what you love, what you absolutely will not tolerate, and what you think would make your marriage last. 🙂

How To Avoid Losing Your Job To Cheap (Foreign) Labour

Lady at Computer

Source

You might have heard this before: “We are slow to hire, but quick to fire” (said one smug HR manager to me during a job interview) OR “He’s too expensive for this company to keep; fire him and we can hire someone half his age and at a third of his salary” (said one penny-pinching boss). The same boss often boasts about hiring a foreigner with a Master’s degree and paying the person just S$2000/month, and says local graduates need to adjust their expectations downwards and not be so demanding and self-entitled.

How can PMEs thrive in the workplace, demonstrate that they have skills and talents that their companies should appreciate and value (enough to keep them around, and pay them a decent wage), and become more than just a ‘cost center’ on the company’s payroll? Essentially, how do you keep your head from ‘rolling’ when the retrenchment or dismissal ‘axe’ comes swinging?

How’s how I’d suggest you avoid losing your job to ‘cheap labour’…

#1: Remain Relevant

First, just as our economy has to remain relevant and competitive so as to thrive in this ever-changing world, PMEs also have to ensure that they keep upgrading their skills and knowledge base to stay relevant and useful (even attempting to reach that holy grail of being ‘indispensable’) to the company, and to constantly learn, unlearn and relearn.

I have friends who end up being the coffee ‘runner’ or the unofficial person to man the photocopier or do silly tasks like moving the boss’s flashy car to the proper parking spots when the “Summons Auntie” comes around to hand out summons for illegal parking. While it undoubtedly gives the employee a sudden ‘break’ during the busy work day, by having him go ‘shift’ the car, does it aid in the employee’s productivity at work, or ensure that his skills and knowledge are utilized for the benefit of the company (and not just the boss)?

Even if you are a young PME, it doesn’t mean you are cheap labour and can be used for menial tasks, especially those that seem to indicate that the company does not value your contributions and ‘worth’. Are you being ‘underemployed’ at work? How can you demonstrate to the bosses that you are a valuable employee? What sort of skills – communication, leadership, teamwork, etc – do you need to learn and master in order to progress in your career, and away from doing menial tasks? Will you be able to utilize SkillsFuture to your benefit?

#2: Know Your Rights

Are you being bullied or harassed at work? Has a colleague gone on leave (e.g. maternity leave) or been fired, and his/her work given to you to do, with no pay increment? Many of my friends complain about being given additional tasks because an employee has quit or was fired. Instead of hiring a new worker, the company simply divides the workload among those employees who remain. This is highly unfair and causes the employees to do more work while receiving the same pay, perhaps even having to put in extra hours at work, while the company reaps the benefits of not having to pay that one person’s salary, CPF contributions and saves on the allowances that the employee should have been given.

I’ve already blogged about how I was denied my CPF monies, and how the CPF Board helped me get that 5-figure sum back. But I do know that many other people are not so fortunate.

Do you know of anyone who was fired because she got pregnant? Have you heard of employees who are given additional duties (e.g. working on weekends) when it’s not part of the employment contract they signed? Do you know the lies that employers spin regarding CPF contributions so they can avoid paying you what they should? Do you know how to seek help from your union, NTUC and the authorities when such unfortunate situations happen to you?

#3: Report Companies Which Have Weak Singaporean Core

Yes, there are jobs which Singaporeans shun and which we need foreign talent or foreign workers for. Some examples include construction workers, cleaners, nursing home staff, security officers, grasscutters, etc.

I would argue that there are other job positions that Singaporeans are willing and able to accept, but which are given to foreigners who command a lower wage or are willing to work for longer hours or be given fewer monetary and non-monetary benefits. For instance, there are even complaints about HR managers being foreigners, who end up hiring more new staff of the same nationality, and giving Singaporeans a miss unfairly!

With regard to the foreign talent hired, especially in culprit sectors like finance and the IT industry, we must ensure that Singaporeans are considered fairly! Where the Fair Consideration Framework should fail or be shown to be inadequate, we should have an Employment Pass quota for these culprit sectors! This idea of quotas is neither mine, nor is it new…

Here’s the MyPaper article in which Labour MP Patrick Tay mentioned this idea in 2011:

MyPaper article

He calls this a PME Dependency Ratio (similar to that for work permits and S passes), and wants this to be implemented for problem sectors which have weak Singaporean core (like Chennai Changi Business Park) and a weak commitment to hire and develop Singaporeans.

https://www.facebook.com/notes/patrick-tay/speech-at-parliamentary-debate-on-presidents-address-by-patrick-tay-fighting-for/937720389596376

We also need to do our part to watch out for discriminatory hiring practices and report these companies to NTUC and MOM to investigate if they should be penalized for discriminating against good Singaporean workers.

Finally, I think that cheap foreign labour will be here to stay. Mitigate the risk that this poses to your ‘ricebowl’ by ensuring you remain top of your game. Make it a foolish decision for the company to dispense with you in favor of a new, cheaper hire from overseas.

Build on your strengths. For instance, the quality of the education we have received in schools and universities here stand us in good stead. Many Singaporeans are effectively bilingual, and many more have experience working and studying overseas. Yes, Indian nationals are favored in the IT and banking sector. Yes, Filipino nationals are often selected for customer-facing roles in F&B, retail, and even in call centers. But we have a solid foundation in the English Language, and many of us are conversant in Mandarin. If you need an ‘upgrade’, go and take a course in Mandarin for business purposes. If you need to learn a third language, do it.

Just as foreigners can come to our shores seeking employment and a better life, we can likewise spread our wings overseas and take up higher-paying regional and international positions. After all, the world is your oyster. You are by no means confined to our small red dot of an island. 🙂

Maybe Baby: How Much Does It Cost To Have A Kid?

Baby

[Pic Credit: Google / blogcdn.com]

Because him and I are often guilty of ‘thinking too much’, we recently spoke about the issue of kids (in the future) despite not even getting our flat or signing wedding papers yet. Strangely enough, I had come to the conclusion that we would need half a million dollars before having a kid would be something I want to consider.

He was quick to pooh-pooh the idea of half a mil. If half a mil is a prerequisite, no one would have kids.

I guess I was just thinking about expensive pre-schools, costly after-school enrichment lessons, additional tuition, and the best and the finest ANYTHING that any kid can possibly want or have. And of course, the minimum of three holidays a year that I still want to enjoy. Oops.

Our government isn’t helping. Those ads at the MRT station about fertility and all are a tad insulting, and frankly, pressurizing. While I’m calculating how much it’ll cost to have a kid, I don’t like the idea of a government trying to help me estimate how many eggs I supposedly have left.

I had a nice catch-up session with a blogger pal on Wednesday and since she has a 7-year-old kid, I thought the question should be posed to her – “How much does it cost to have a kid?”

She said that for having a baby, and picking a private hospital instead of KK Hospital, it’d probably take slightly less than S$10,000 in Medisave and perhaps just S$400 out of pocket like she did. Her friends chose KK and they had to pay significantly less.

So, ok, I take back my words. Half a million dollars is not needed for having a kid.

I do want to ensure that the environment my kid is born into is a comfortable yet challenging one; he/she should have all the resources required to develop any innate abilities and ‘gifts’, yet not become overly ‘soft’ and needy.

If the kid has musical talent (which I don’t), I hope to get the best teacher and the best school for my kid. But I’d still want my kid to plan his/her own timetable, select the preferred classes, and work really, really hard at developing whatever talent there is.

As for mainstream education, I hope I don’t turn out to be like those parents who DEMAND that their child goes to the top schools (But every school a good school? What nonsense. We just agree publicly and laugh privately), scores top grades, and makes the family proud.

I know that this kid can easily say “I didn’t ask to be born. Why are you asking so much of me? Did I tell you to bring me to this earth?!”

Any parent who expects more of the child, beyond that he/she grows up happy and healthy, is ultimately being selfish.

There are some who expect their kids to be lawyers, doctors and accountants, just like everyone else in the family.

There are those who think that 98/100 is a horrible test score if another kid in the same class scored full marks.

There are also the lot who believe that they have their kid’s future all mapped out. What rubbish! You have your kid’s future all ruined if you force him/her into any particular career of YOUR choice!

Me?

I just want to ensure I still have a life after having a kid (if I do indeed have one).

Will I be able to do the same work I enjoy? Will I be able to get my 10 hours of beauty sleep on days when I really need it? Will he be willing to change the diapers, feed the kid, and bathe the baby when I’m just too tired to do any of these?

Will I be pressured into having a male child to take on someone’s surname? (In which case, I’d rather not have any kids and just declare myself not mummy material)

Sometimes I just think I’m not ready for kids. I like kids, don’t get me wrong. If someone else’s kid cries, poo-ed into a diaper or is just being disagreeable, I simply hand the bugger back to the mother. If I am THAT mother, oh no…

And he tends to say that I’ll be ready when it happens… or rather, I have no choice but to be ready even if I’m not. LOL.

Easy for men to say.

They are not the ones who have to decide whether it’s natural birth (which supposedly comes with intense pain) or a C-section (which leaves that scar).

Just do a google image search for caesarean scars and you’ll find images like these:

caesarean scar

I don’t think I am ready to be cut open yet I think the C-section is the lesser of two evils when it comes to the level of pain involved. I cannot imagine a baby popping out down south – I’d probably feel like I’m being split into two.

So men who callously say that we’ll be ready when it happens deserve to be stabbed with a fork… multiple times. (I know you are reading this. Watch out, darling). Men just give of their sperm (which they likely wouldn’t miss anyway) BUT women?! Some women give up their careers, their personal lives, their hobbies, their beauty sleep, and more, just for the kid. Of course, there are stay-at-home dads (Bravo, gentlemen!) but they are still in the minority.

And my response to those who like to say “Oh, but a kid will bring you such joy, and complete your life, and the joys of motherhood are nothing like you have ever experienced”…

Answer me:

1) Do women usually look more tired or less tired after the birth of a child?

2) Do women generally have more or less confidence about their body and self-image before or after the birth of a child?

3) Do women tend to have more time for themselves before or after having a child?

4) Do women often experience more success at work before or after having a child?

5) Are stress levels higher before or after having a child?

I’m sure you know what I am driving at. 😉

I’m not so certain about a child “completing” my life or (future) marriage. I’ll be happy if it doesn’t wreck it. My life is ‘complete’ as it is.

So there is no straightforward Yes or No answer to whether I’ll have a kid in future (assuming we are both perfectly capable of producing offspring).

Baby? Maybe. Just maybe.

How Many Guests Do You Need At Your Wedding?

Wedding

[Pic credit: Google / perugia-farmhouse.it]

When a friend you’ve not spoken to in a long, long time suddenly contacts you on a social media platform or via text message, it is likely that the person is getting married, is selling insurance, or is in an MLM business and wants to rope you in. 😉

I encountered #1 yesterday night.

I didn’t quite know how to respond when the person invited me to his wedding, more than one year in advance. I’m flattered he thinks I need the wayyyy-in-advance notification, but puzzled as to why me.

The last time I agreed to attend a wedding of someone I hadn’t spoken to in a long while, I took it as a gathering of ex-Student Council mates. An expensive gathering, no doubt. But our President was getting married, and it was a good time to catch up with old friends.

But why invite me if you and I haven’t actually spoken or met up in a long, long time? We are not buddies who go out for coffee, don’t remember each other’s birthdays, and I don’t even have your phone number! Hmm…

And you might wonder… so who am I going to invite to my own wedding?

I don’t think I’m inviting any of my relatives. I’ve only exchanged text messages with one cousin this year. And she reads my blogposts sometimes, I think. The rest of the people I see only during Chinese New Year.

And during Chinese New Year one time, a still-upset uncle demanded to know why I did not attend his daughter’s wedding. And our conversation went something like this:

Me: “I haven’t spoken to her in a long time [Which was an understatement. I’ve not spoken to her ever, I think, except for the once a year Happy New Year greeting] , and I’m not even like one of the bridesmaids or anything.”

Angry Uncle: “No… This is about family, and (blah blah blah, I cannot remember what he said)”

Me: “It’s about the money, right?” 😉

Uncle: …

My Dad is very generous when it comes to red packets and even if anyone in our small family unit is absent, he’d still put in the same amount into the red packet as if that person had attended the dinner too.

So I could not understand what the fuss was about. I don’t even know what that cousin’s name is. Yes, honest to God, I cannot, for the life of me, recall what her name is. And I’m supposed to attend her wedding? HUH?!

As for my wedding, I’m not inviting people I haven’t spoken to in ages. I’m only inviting those who are closest and dearest to me. People who actually remember my birthday, for one. People I meet at least once every other month, and people who constantly ask when I’m getting married because they claim to have their angpows ready for me.

It’ll definitely be a small, intimate gathering of friends who are truly (with tears in their eyes) happy for me, that I am not going to be left on the shelf. Hur hur.

Thankfully, my Dad’s the real enlightened sort. He’s constantly telling me to plan my wedding according to my own wishes. If I’d like to do away with the expensive banquet, I should do away with it. His latest take on the whole issue is that we should just splurge on a honeymoon instead of paying a hotel and inviting all these people we haven’t seen in a while.

Must we stick to tradition?

Why do we even need a lavish banquet? Why do we need to invite so many people and pray and hope their red packets ‘cover’ the amount we paid for the expensive ballroom, that lavish spread, that designer gown, the costly photography and videography package, etc?

It doesn’t really make much sense.

As for wedding couples who actually tell guests how much to put into the red packets, and would happily announce to all guests present about how much is in each red packet collected and who gave how much… shame on you all!

As my personal trainer and friend shared with me, that celebration should not be about the dollars and cents. Just invite a small group of close friends for a dinner and take it that you are treating them to dinner and expecting only that they give you (JUST) their blessings for your marriage. He told me that those blessings are really important, and I just nodded my head in agreement.

So… for the people I eventually decide to invite to whatever form of wedding reception we put together…

Your presence is requested, but not expected. Come only with blessings. Bring that red packet only if you must (since you’ve been telling me about it for years now). The meal’s on me. All I ask is that you have a really good time.